Energy dichotomy: Asian coal gains momentum as Biden undermines U.S. economy

By Vijay Jayaraj – December 11, 2021

 It has been a tough time for the U.S. energy sector with gas prices soaring and heating bills expected to do the same. President Biden has blamed OPEC for not producing oil at a faster pace and appears to be pleading with countries to release more oil.

However, the real reason for the U.S. crisis has been Biden’s anti-fossil fuel agenda that has inhibited the production of more oil and natural gas. The country has gone from being energy independent in 2020 to being short on energy.

But here in Asia, the situation is completely different. Key countries like India, China and Japan have invested heavily in securing fossil fuels, knowing that no other source (except for nuclear and, to some degree, hydro) can sustain primary energy demands.

Despite promising to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, Asian economies are on a track to burn more coal that contrasts starkly with the Biden administration’s energy policy and with the hostility toward fossil fuels at the recent COP26 climate meeting. Coal production is now on the rise in Asia after China and India urged their industries to ramp up output following severe shortages of coal during September and October.

Both countries “mine 14 million tons of coal per day, and account for 95 per cent of the new coal-fired power plants brought online over the last decade,” Bloomberg reported.

In addition to supporting electricity generation, fossil fuels, especially coal, act as foundational fuel sources for basic industries. Monika Mondal of The Diplomat notes that phasing down fossil fuels will be almost impossible in developing countries as they are projected to witness the highest growth in the building of infrastructure.

“The four materials prominent in infrastructure development – steel, cement, aluminum, and chemicals – are responsible for 60 percent of current industry emissions,” Mondal says. “Global demand for steel is projected to continue to increase by more than a third through 2050, driven by emerging economies such as those in South and Southeast Asia, where high populations require more infrastructure construction.”

Ulka Kelkar of World Resource Institute explains, “Heavy industries like cement, steel, and chemicals not only burn fossil fuels to generate heat, but also use them as chemical feedstocks……. While energy-use emissions can be mitigated by using more renewable electricity, process emissions are very hard to reduce because very few viable alternative technologies exist.”

This is one of the reasons why coal and oil will continue to be the leading primary energy source in India, China and other developing countries.

Australia’s New Hope Corp — which sells coal to India, Vietnam, and Japan — says in a forecast: “Many communities, particularly the large cities of Asia, will require coal for affordable and accessible base load energy provided by our customers to power homes and industries in the next two decades and beyond.”

In fact, in Japan, there are no signs of coal being phased out as major utility companies continue to depend on coal for electricity. CNA reported that most of the large utility companies — including Hokuriku Electric Power and Hokkaido Electric Power — have not decided on schedules to shut coal plants. “Our coal-fired thermal power plants play an important role in maintaining stable electricity supplies,” said a Hokuriku spokesperson.

Only Biden is to be blamed for the fuel shortages and price increases across the U.S. If he continues on this path, coming decades may see an energy dichotomy characterized by strong Asian economies bolstered by coal and a weak U.S. economy fostered by self-destructive leadership.

Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Va., and holds a Masters degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, England. He resides in Bengaluru, India.

This commentary was first published December 11, 2021 at the American Thinker.

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